As "American Hardcore" author Steven Blush stated in his book, "East Coast hardcore begins with Bad Brains." For us, objectively situating the hardcore progenitors' latest comeback record within the continuum of their work is problematic. This is primarily because we possess only passing knowledge of the legendary quartet's spotty '90s output, and the bulk of our affinity for the band is based on the self-titled set, the demo collection Black Dots, and some cuts from the amazingly titled I Against I that made it on to one of the best mix tapes we ever received. So... we can't tell you for a fact that the new set Build A Nation is Bad Brains' best record in 20 years (and might be their most balanced ever, save for perhaps the "Pay To Cum" single, which was backed with the outstanding reggae cut "Stay Close To Me"), but that's our belief. Megaforce Records released Build A Nation June 26.
The new set features visceral and largely glossless production courtesy of Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch. Bad Brains sets the tone right from the opening, with the classic two-chord bludgeoning of "Give Thanks." And the relentless, 104-second title track -- which has three words of lyrics -- slams with an energy that is hard to believe, considering the age of the players involved. And then "Let There Be Angels (Just Like You)" increases that intensity even more. That said, Build A Nation also thrives on variety, as several dubby reggae cuts are also prominently featured. "Roll On" wafts out of headphones with fat bass notes and pulsing organ and guitar lines. H.R. is even more inscrutable than ever; on "Natty Dreadlocks" he name-drops Soul Brains, starts in with something about "rub-a-dub," and, well, we've already lost him. The lyrics are more transparent are when religious themes are the focus. They don't get more obvious than the half blistering thrasher, half spiritual chant "Give Thanks And Praises," an MP3 of which we've posted below.
Also of note is this interview the band did with Spinner's The DL web program, which tantalizes with some live footage from one of the band's recent, curious performances on a cruise ship. Definitely worth watching, although we are disappointed there wasn't more live footage -- the little bit that is there is heavy. The band currently has only two more shows booked in support of Build A Nation; check out the dates here.
Bad Brains -- "Give Thanks And Praises" -- Build A Nation
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[buy Build A Nation from Newbury Comics here]
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